Offbeat

NOVEMBER 14, 2014

Touring

The perfect tourists

ESPNcricinfo staff

Cricketers spend a huge amount of time away from home and England are just about to embark on their overseas trips as they head to Sri Lanka for the one-day series, which is followed by a long stay in Australia and New Zealand for the world and then a West Indies tour. That's many nights in the same dressing room and same hotels as each other. In the Daily Telegraph, the former England captain Michael Vaughan picks his ideal touring team - and the criteria are far from based on just runs and wickets

Mark Butcher: You need a musician on tour who can sit at the back of the bus and sing a song when you have been hammered in a day's play. It just releases the pressure on everyone. As a player Butch liked a fag and a drink. He loved a night out and I always thought he was in the wrong profession because cricket seemed to get in the way of his rock and roll lifestyle.

NOVEMBER 02, 2014

A village state of mind

Vithushan Ehantharajah: There's something to be said for being unsure of cricket, its whims and unwritten rules, but wanting more, and playing on regardless
OCTOBER 13, 2014

What would you call a Khan who chucked?

Beige Brigade: The boys link Chaka Khan to cricket, discuss an intriguing excerpt from Gary Bartlett's book, and what Pietersen will be doing ten years from now
OCTOBER 02, 2014

Curtains on the pig saga

Remember Ash the pig? He was the one smuggled into the Gabba on a steaming summer's day during the last Ashes and later found to be dehydrated and in fairly sorry condition. Well, the update is that David Gunn, accused of smuggling him in wrapped in a blanket, his snout taped shut and ensconced in a baby harness, no longer faces charges of animal cruelty. The charges were reportedly dropped by Brisbane's prosecuting authorities because they couldn't prove that Gunn was the same person who'd smuggled in the pig. And Ash? Well, he was adopted soon after his ordeal and spent his recuperation eating liver and swimming in his own pool. He's now reported to be in good health.

SEPTEMBER 18, 2014

English cricket

Root, Ballance and the Idle days

In an extensive interview with BBC Sport, Joe Root and Gary Ballance reminisce about their early years in Yorkshire's cricket set-up and the time they spent as house-mates in a village called Idle. Root, a practical joker according to Ballance, recalls an incident involving Ryan Sidebottom and a sock that paid a quirky tribute to the legend of the Yorkshire Snipper.

Root grins knowingly, then adds: "The worst one was when I did it to (veteran fast bowler) Ryan Sidebottom after dropping two catches off him. At the end of the day's play he was sitting next to me in the dressing-room and was already absolutely furious.
"Then he got out of the shower, pulled his first sock on right up to the top of his thigh and just blew up. All the lads were trying not to look at him and laugh. I just knew I had to get out of there or I would be in a bit of pain."

SEPTEMBER 16, 2014

Offbeat

The nature v nurture debate in cricket

In an article for Aeon magazine, David Papineau explores the idea of nature v nurture in cricket by comparing it with other sports and examines whether genetic qualities plays a bigger role in the development of cricketers than environment.

If environments matter more in cricket than in soccer, then this makes cricketing skills look less genetically heritable than footballing ones. In football, most of the differences come from genetic advantages just because there aren't many environmental differences (if you live in a soccer-mad nation, opportunities to play are everywhere). But in cricket, there would still be a wide range of abilities even if everybody had exactly the same genetic endowment, because only some children would get a proper chance to learn the game. In effect, environmental causes are doing a lot more to spread out the children in cricket than they are in football. To sum up, cricket runs in families precisely because the genetic heritability of cricket skills is relatively low.

SEPTEMBER 03, 2014

Usain Bolt seals last-ball victory against Yuvraj XI

Usain Bolt outhits Yuvraj Singh in a six-hitting competition. Yuvraj Singh outruns Usain Bolt in a 100m dash. Both share the honours in a bowl-out, hitting the stumps three times apiece.

That was just some of the 'action' witnessed by the fans who turned up to watch an exhibition match at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on Tuesday. While some of it was clearly not authentic, the 6000-strong crowd present at the Puma event didn't seem to mind.

The highlight of the day, of course, was the match itself, a four-overs-per-team, seven-a-side affair. There were other big names on show too: Yuvraj's team included Zaheer Khan, while Bolt had Harbhajan Singh.

And it was a thriller: with 10 needed off two balls, Bolt hit a six off the penultimate ball - sent down by full-time keeper, part-time offspinner Aditya Tare - but missed the next one. In keeping with the entertainment-first theme, umpire Ajay Jadeja called no-ball, and Bolt duly smashed the final one for six more to finish 45 not out off 19 (both captains were allowed to bat through the innings, even if dismissed in between). Wonder if Royal Challengers' scouts were around?

AUGUST 27, 2014

Bolt versus Yuvraj

Usain Bolt isn't a stranger to cricket. He played during his early years, did a number on Chris Gayle's stumps in a charity match in Jamaica in 2009 and almost turned out for Melbourne Stars during the 2012 Big Bash League. And he will be at it again when he squares up with Yuvraj Singh during an event at Bangalore's Chinnaswamy Stadium, on September 2.

Though Bolt's abilities on the open track are considerably more impressive, Gayle had a word of warning about Bolt the cricketer: "In a charity game he [Bolt] played against me, he almost knocked my head off with a good, competitive bouncer."

Bolt's trademark celebrations have been copied by cricketers, but here is a chance for catching the original one on a cricket field. Look out, Yuvraj.

JUNE 19, 2014

New Zealand cricket

Chris Martin, the grocer

Chris Martin, the retired New Zealand pacer, has found his new calling. He is going into the grocery store business. He, with his family, moved from Christchurch to Palmerston North to take charge of a Four Square - a mini-market chain in New Zealand, which offers groceries, fresh produce, meat and drinks, all with "a friendly smile". Clients who visit this particular outlet, will probably be offered that smile by Martin himself, as he plans to be quite hands-on.

"[Wife] Jane and I were quite keen to have our own business," Martin said, according to stuff.co.nz. "We wanted to have something we could own and operate and have ourselves.

"We also have a passion for food, which I suppose translated well to a Four Square. I might get a few aspiring cricketers coming and buying drinks."

Cricket, Martin said, left him well prepared to go into business. "I think with the cricket side of things you have to get out of bed every day and kind of do it all for yourself ... I think owning your own business is similar."

JUNE 06, 2014

Offbeat

Green gloves, ducks and bats taped to ceilings

While reviewing Chris Waters' book 10 for 10 - on Hedley Verity's record - for the Guardian, Andy Bull recounts some entertaining stories of superstitions that cricketers have followed.

Others take things further still. Duck seemed so portentous to Steve James that he refused to eat it, and wouldn't even let his children have a rubber one to play with in the bath, until after his career was over. He sympathised with Neil McKenzie, who developed an obsession that meant he would go out to bat only when all the toilet seats were down, and even went through a phase of taping his bat to the ceiling because his team-mates had once done that to him on a day when he scored a century.

JUNE 06, 2014

West Indies cricket

Serving the community with Chris Gayle's Big Six Club

Chris Gayle is looking to give something back to Jamaican society, through cricket. He has opened an academy in Kingston, at the Lucas Cricket Club, for "underprivileged youngsters". The academy, which also has a branch in England, will have two programmes: the Chris Gayle Academy team, and the Chris Gayle Big Six Club.

The academy team will cater to 16 young players on an annual basis, aged between 16 and 21, and - the plan is - give them the opportunity to play other Jamaican teams and touring youth squads. The Big Six Club is a 12-week programme targeted at kids from troubled communities (think low school-attendance rates, high crime levels, and rising drugs abuse).

An emotional Gayle, at the academy's launch, remembered how he was attracted to the game when he was a kid. "Being here brings back memories of me as a youngster, who used to jump the walls of Lucas from my house across the street, just wanting the opportunity to learn the sport of cricket and become a better person," Gayle said, according to the Jamaica Gleaner. "To have come from that far, and being here now, is quite moving, and the hope is that this academy will similarly open doors and opportunities for youngsters."

MAY 19, 2014

Pakistan's Game of Thrones characters

Ahmer Naqvi: Aren't there resemblances between the hit fantasy show and an unpredictable, thrilling cricket team?
MAY 16, 2014

English cricket

The cricket ball goes to space … almost

The ECB has sent the cricket ball "where no cricket ball has gone before": to the "edge of space".

A white ball was sent up from Edgbaston, Birmingham, strapped to a helium balloon, to an altitude of 110,000 feet (or three times the height at which commercial aircraft fly), where it is said to have experienced temperatures of -54C and reached speeds of 500mph while freefalling back to earth. It landed in Newbury, Hertfordshire, in "near-perfect condition".

The stunt was organised as part of the launch of the ECB's revamped T20 competition, the NatWest t20 Blast, and required the input of "a team of aeronautical engineers", according to the ECB site. For the video of the ball on its way to the upper layers of the earth's atmosphere, click here.

MAY 01, 2014

Indian cricket

Drama, dance and Sreesanth

One of Sreesanth's trademarks, both on and off the field, is theatricality. Now, with cricket off the agenda for him, he seems to have turned his attention more firmly to acting, dancing and song-writing. He is set to score music for Anbulla Azagae a Tamil-Telugu film his brother Dipu Shanthan is producing, as well as play a cameo role in it. He is also likely to take part in dance-based television show Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, next season.

"Sree will be composing all songs in the movie, a love story laced with suspense and drama," Dipu Shanthan told Hindustan Times. "The main cast of the film hasn't been finalised yet, but it will have the best in the industry." Sreesanth, who was banned last year after being found guilty of being involved in the IPL spot-fixing scandal, has already produced and directed two music albums.

APRIL 11, 2014

England cricket

When Kent threatened to end cricket

Justin Parkinson, political reporter for the BBC, takes us through the history of cricket ball manufacture in the UK. From April 1914 when workers from west Kent threatened to hold the cricket season hostage by not producing any more balls until they were reimbursed appropriately. At the time they had been supplying the best quality for over 150 years, but as the 20th century wore on the monopoly went into steady decline.

Kent's ball manufacturers employed several hundred people at the time, many of whom complained of being treated like "sweated labour".

"The power of the union may be largely a thing of the past, and cricket ball manufacture, along with pretty much everything else in cricket, has now largely moved to the subcontinent", says Matt Thacker, managing editor of The Nightwatchman, the Wisden Cricket Quarterly magazine."But it's great to be reminded occasionally how deeply ingrained into the fabric of English life cricket was.

APRIL 09, 2014

Cuban cricket

Bat up, Cuba

T20 cricket has been dubbed the best vehicle to sell the game across the far reaches of the globe. But what happens when the bug bites but the players do not have the requisite equipment to mimic Chris Gayle's monstrous hits or Lasith Malinga's searing toe-crushers? A town in Cuba faced this conundrum but Scyld Berry's column, in the Telegraph, explains how a charity has taken responsibility of supplying the locals all they need to fuel their passion for cricket.

To see the impact of the arrival of four quality bats in Guantanamo was heart-warming, even for a bowler, and of the first cricket helmet the players had ever seen. A useful addition, because the first ball of our middle-practice - just short of a length - went three feet over the batsman's head.

APRIL 01, 2014

Indian cricket

An app by a cricketer, for cricketers

The list of engineers in Indian cricket is a long and illustrious one and while Mumbai pacer Saurabh Netravalkar is a rank newbie on that list, he has already combined his academic focus with his knowledge of the game to develop a cricket-based application.

Called CricDeCode, the application is designed to help cricketers analyse their game and can be used across platforms. The inspiration behind it was simple enough. "I didn't want the hours of engineering studies to go to waste," Netravalkar told Hindustan Times. "That's how I thought of developing the mobile app."

In the 2010 Under-19 World Cup, Netravalkar was the leading wicket-taker for India after which the fast bowler decided to split his focus on engineering and cricket. He graduated with a degree in computer science last year and also made his first-class and List A debuts for Mumbai earlier in this season.

MARCH 25, 2014

Baggy-green baby

Philip Brown: What do you get when you combine a legendary Test cricketer's cap, a two-year-old and some pink zinc cream?
FEBRUARY 21, 2014

What's the best job in cricket?

Nicholas Hogg: Streaker guard? Grass cutter? Bat maker? Or a sushi-eating cricket missionary?
FEBRUARY 16, 2014

Under-19 World Cup 2014

Sarfaraz's unique T-shirt tribute to father

One of the most influential figures in the life of Sarfaraz Khan - India's 16-year-old batting allrounder - is his father and coach, Naushad. One of the many things Naushad, a hard taskmaster, did to support and push his son's cricketing ambition was to install a synthetic pitch near their house to ensure Sarfaraz had access to practice facilities at all times. Sarfaraz who hit a half-century, took four catches and a wicket in India's first game of the Under-19 World Cup against Pakistan, found a unique way to thank his father at the tournament.

At the media conference after the game against Pakistan, Sarfaraz was asked why his shirt number had changed from 86 to 97. As it turned out, it was no clerical error but one done purposely, as a mark of respect to his father. In Hindi, '9' and '7' are nau and saat respectively. Said together, it rhymes with 'Naushad'.

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